Should I work out when I’m sick? That’s the question I asked myself again this week. A stomach bug hit our household over the weekend, first hitting my daughter (on her confirmation day, no less) then claiming my son. On Tuesday, I thought I was in the clear. By that evening I was in bed with a fever, chills, and a stomach that just wouldn’t settle down (along with my dog and remote control).
Many of you would probably think I was a bit crazy for even entertaining the idea of a workout while under-the-weather. Let me explain myself. Because I’ve worked so hard to attain my fitness goals, I hate to take more than a day or two off at at time. Not only because I’m afraid I’ll lose the precious muscle tone it took me so long to build, but because I used to suffer from the “falling off the bandwagon” syndrome.
In the past, I’d start a fitness program, stick to it for a few months, then let myself slack off. This would often happen if I was preparing for a 5K, trying to shape up for a special event, or my schedule just got too busy. Before I knew it, I’d gained five pounds and lost all of my prior results. It’s the old law of inertia, what is in motion tends to stay in motion. What is at rest tends to stay at rest.
In hindsight, I realize my past motivation to work out wasn’t coming intrinsically. I fell off the bandwagon because I made up reasons (excuses, really) not to start again. Because I know how easy it is to fall into that trap, I vow never to let that happen again. These days when I work out, I do it because I truly love how it makes me feel. Not because I’m preparing for an event. I can now take a two (even three!) days off without fearing the worst. I know when I’m feeling well, I’ll jump back on the bandwagon with more energy than ever. I can allow my body time to heal without the guilt.
A general rule of thumb is that if you’re feeling well from the neck down, it’s OK to exercise. A case of the sniffles or a head cold won’t do any harm. However, if you’ve got a fever and body aches, your body needs to use its recovery properties to fight the illness. Essentially, working out when you’re sick is like overtraining and could lengthen the duration of your illness.